Ballantini: Coop hits the hot seat - for good?

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Ballantini: Coop hits the hot seat - for good?

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011
Posted: 8:36 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
READ: Cooper, Baines ink extensions
VIDEO: One-on-one with GM Williams, Part 1
VIDEO: One-on-one with GM Williams, Part 2

As Don Cooper ascended to the spot where former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sat and held court for nearly eight seasons, it sure didnt seem like the shoes were all that big to fill.

I could manage. If I had the right people around me, I think I could do it, Cooper said. I dont think its necessarily Xs and Os. Its more managing people, creating an atmosphere, things like that. I do believe I could do it.

Cooper has been coaching in the White Sox organization since 1988 and for the major league team since 2002, predating Guillen. The former major league pitchergenerally considered the finest pitching coach in baseballhas yet to try his hand at managing, but has long spoken of his managerial aspirations and believes he has the mettle to succeed. The two of us have spoken over time and at length, dating to last year, about that possibilityand in Chicago if Guillen was ever to depart.

While Ken Williams has made no mention of Cooper as a managerial candidate and has indicated he has a definite external favorite candidate, the GM definitely values his mentoring. That was evidenced on Tuesday, when Cooper and Harold Baines were both re-signed to coaching extensions.

Of Cooper, Williams said, Well, the pitching has been as consistent over the last decade, and thats a testament to our scouting department, to our player development department, to Don Cooper, directly in his direction. Its something thats well deserved and Im happy, thrilled to know that hes going to be on board here for the next four years.

Coopers charges believe he has the mettle to apply his success as a pitching coach to an opportunity in the big chair.

Yeah, why not, closer Sergio Santos said. He sees game situations well and deals so well with the mental side of the game.

Fellow reliever Will Ohman predictably was more contemplative, citing Coopers malleability as a particular strength.

Most players will rise to the challenge for a guy who you played your best for, and the guy you usually play your best for is the one who puts you in a position to play your best, said Ohman, pointing out that pitching coaches are often overlooked when it comes to managing. He asked me in spring training: How to I get you to be the best you can be? Hes not the kind of guy who will tell you, This is how we do it here, period He has a different method for each guy, some are thinkers, some are doers. Thats the job of a very good coach.

Cooper made specific reference to his communication style before the game, citing it as one of his key strengths.

Ozzie and I have had unbelievably good communication on the pitchers, on a daily basis Id like to think that same communication is going to happen with anybody else, he said. Im just a believer in communication as the key to any relationship, whether youre a bossemployee, coachplayer, boyfriendgirlfriend, manwife communications the key, man. That goes for any coaching job.

With Ozzie gone and Cooper no longer obligated to keep his big chair aspirations more on the down low, hes not looking at his late-season audition as a lark, but a tryout.

Cooper believes that his ability to motivate pitchers physically, mentally and emotionally can translate to an entire team and builds a bold and positive rsum for his candidacy. Counting Matt Thornton, Esteban Loaiza and Gavin Floyd among Cooper's dozen high-profile success stories, GM Ken Williams is well aware of his pitching coach's strengths and owes much of his executive success to Coop's coaching. That knowledge may result in Cooper being granted fuller responsibility with the teama responsibility that began Tuesday night.

Whether the GM recognizes it or not, if his pitchers have anything to say about it, Cooper should be considered for the top job.

He deserves consideration, lefty John Danks said. Hes helped me through different parts of my career in so many different ways. Hes got a great feel for what we need, mentally, physically, motivationally. I cant believe managing hasnt happened for him yet.

He gave me the opportunity to succeed or fail here with the White Sox and equipped me for the success Ive had here, said Phil Humber, Coopers latest revitalization, arguably the Soxs top starter in 2011. Thats a real key to who he ishe finds out what you need from him, then he equips you with it. Theres nothing more Id ask for in a manager, actually.

Hey, were the replacements

While Williams still is not speculating as to who would replace Guillen, he has said that the yearlong drama regarding the ex-managers contract prepared him well for the day that Williams would have to replace his former teammate.

And theres nothing that says we cant speculate on the man who trots the lineup card out for the White Sox's first game of 2012 at the Texas Rangers on April 6.

In order of likelihood, heres a glimpse at the candidates outside of current interim manager Don Cooper.

Dave Martinez: Martinez has the toughness and pedigree to appeal to Williams. Likewise his mentorship under universally-admired mentor Joe Maddon and Tampa Bays success with maximizing roster potential. But reading the tea leaves of Williams pregame comments on Tuesday, where, unsolicited, he mentioned that his clear choice might not be hired by the World Series because his choice might be involved.

We have to wait and see who the players are in the World Series and if theres someone on a playoff team that I ultimately might want to talk to, it might have to drag a little bit.

For those who feel Williams is leaning toward Sandy Alomar Jr., the Cleveland Indians are not in the playoffs; unless the GM is initiating heavy subterfuge and misdirection, hes already told us that his top candidate is in playoff contention.

Terry Francona: Long a favorite of Williams, its unlikely he is released from the Red Sox. But if Boston falters and falls from the playoffs in the seasons final two games, a change could be in the air. When talking about having to wait until after the World Series, Williams could be referring to an infatuation with Francona as wellalthough it is much less realistic or likely.

Sandy Alomar Jr.: The Cleveland Indians coach and former three-time White Sox interviewed very well for the Toronto Blue Jays opening in 2011, finishing a close second to John Farrell.

Joe McEwing: Ozzie himself seemed to transition from a mocking use of Super in front of McEwings name in passing to genuine appreciation for the Charlotte Triple-A manager. Yet the ascendance of a minor-league manager would seem more in line with a team going young, as the White Sox are too deep All-In for 2012 to make such a move.

Omar Vizquel: Vizquel said on Tuesday that he still wants to play in Chicago, not coach or manage hereyet. Vizquels artistic, mellow bent might be just the recipe for Williams after the eight-year diet of brashness and controversy Guillen provided.

Tony LaRussa: Unless Jerry Reinsdorf just extended Cooper for four years in order to fire him with four years left on the deal, LaRussa wont come to Chicago if only because he is forever married to pitching coach Dave Duncan. Still, LaRussa remains a favorite of certain dead-horse beating writers, despite the fact that the ex-White Sox mentor is unsure he even will commit to his current St. Louis Cardinals for more than a year a time.

Buddy Bell: For whatever reason, the former manager and current White Sox farm director was immediately bandied as a possible replacement despite the fact that he told South Side Sox this May he absolutely would not return to managing.

Joey Cora: Cora would have been a fair enough candidate if not so closely associated with Guillen. As the team didnt even allow Cora to serve as the interim manager to finish 2011, theres close to zero chance Cora will interview with Williams. Besides, the team malaise under Ozzie this season must also fall on Coras shoulders, as the bench coach handles a lot of the clubs heavy lifting.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information. CSNChicago staff contributed to this report.

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland ended a productive spring with his best outing to date on Monday afternoon.

Healthy and excited to officially kick off his White Sox career, Holland delivered six strong innings in a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. The left-hander allowed two earned runs and five hits in six innings pitched, walking two and striking out one. Holland is expected to pitch once more in Milwaukee on Saturday before pitching in the third game of the regular season.

“Definitely feel good,” Holland said. “Feel very confident with everything, very happy with how the spring went. I worked on what we needed to work on to get myself ready for the season and stay healthy and I’m very happy with that. But most of all when you get out there and pitch, the defense, you have to keep them on their toes, and I thought the last out was the perfect example of that.”

Holland was referring to a nice diving catch by Jacob May that prevented at least one run from scoring. The longtime Texas Rangers pitcher was pleased to have established his fastball early and mixed in his offspeed pitches and changeup.

“I wanted to make sure we were going the distance,” Holland said. “I didn’t want to have a setback, and I thought we did a great job.”

The White Sox appear to have narrowly avoided one setback on Monday and are awaiting word on another. An X-ray on the left wrist of infielder Tyler Saladino was negative after he was hit by a pitch while getting in work in a pair of minor-league games. Saladino has been diagnosed with a bruised wrist.

The team is still awaiting word on pitcher Jake Petricka, who took a comebacker off his pitching hand in the seventh inning. Petricka exited the game, got his hand wrapped in ice and left to take an X-ray.

The White Sox are also waiting to learn the results of Carlos Rodon’s second opinion. Rodon was scratched from Friday’s start with a tight bicep tendon and had a physical exam and took an MRI, both of which showed he had no structural damage. Rodon traveled to Los Angeles early Monday for the second opinion with Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Even if he receives the all clear, the White Sox will remain cautious, manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s almost like you have to re-start the process a little bit,” Renteria said. “It would be foolish to try to anticipate or push him into any direction without first of all ultimately having whatever the diagnosis is or the validation or whatever it might be of the second opinion. Once we get that, we’ll know hopefully tomorrow how we can ultimately proceed. I wouldn’t think we’d try to ramp him up quickly.”

The club also expects to have more clarity on the status of right-handed pitcher Juan Minaya on Tuesday. Minaya, who has been out since March 15 with an abdominal tear, was re-evaluated on Monday. Minaya had a 3.18 ERA and nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings this spring.

Matt Davidson also had two hits in the White Sox victory and drove in a run. Melky Cabrera hit a solo homer, his first of the spring. Yolmer Sanchez blasted his third homer of the spring, a two-run shot.

Zach Putnam struck out two in a scoreless inning.

With season a week away, Todd Frazier is 'right where I need to be'

With season a week away, Todd Frazier is 'right where I need to be'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After he pulled the ball more than ever in 2016, Todd Frazier has worked to hit it the opposite way more often this spring. Even if he struggled.

But as the Opening Day nears, Frazier doesn’t want to cheat himself. Though he struggled last season, Frazier hit a career-high 40 homers. That kind of success means Frazier will continue to pull a pitch if it’s where he likes it. That approach led to a double and Frazier’s first home run of the spring in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Both balls were hit to left field.

“I’ve been working on a lot of things and sometimes when you work on something the results aren’t going to be there,” Frazier said. “But I still stay true to myself. And once we start getting going here, pretty close, close as can be -- it’s time to have those things in the back of your mind. But at the same time, you have to hit it where the pitch is and put in play. I was working on a lot of things. I was still trying to go right field, couldn’t get it out there. And now you go to what you know best and just react.”

According to fangraphs.com, Frazier hit 22.8 percent of all balls he put in play to right field last year, which is actually above his career mark of 22.5 percent. But en route to slashing .225/.302/.464, Frazier saw a second consecutive dramatic drop in the number of balls he hit to center. Of the balls Frazier put in play, only 28.5 percent went up the middle, down from 37.7 percent in 2014 when he produced a career-best wRC+ of 122.

To correct that trend, Frazier has worked to give himself a better chance to hit outside pitches the opposite way. Now that his focus is back on hitting to all fields, Frazier thought it was a good sign to homer with a week left before the season starts.

“It feels good,” Frazier said. “It’s showing I’m in the right place. It was a changeup and I’ve been out in front on a lot of those. I’ve got about 10 or 12 more at-bats before the season starts and it’s go time. Get back in the rhythm of things. Whatever you worked on, keep that there. If it’s outside now I have that weapon too as well. I’m right where I need to be.”